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Rivanna River pedestrian bridge too pricey for VDOT

Maybe it wasn’t a bridge too far, but it was a price tag too high.

Despite the fact that a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River had “real benefits” for Charlottesville and Albemarle County, the project won’t be recommended for funding, mainly because of a proposed price tag of $16 million to $42 million, Culpeper District Planner Charles Proctor Proctor told The Daily Progress on Thursday.

“Typically, we’re in the $10 to $15 million range for projects,” said Proctor, who sits on the planning organization’s policy committee. “The benefit was pretty high for that project, but it just wasn’t high enough to get it funded overall.”

Smart Scale, a Virginia Department of Transportation program, evaluates transportation projects for funding based on how they improve safety, relieve congestion and increase accessibility, among other factors.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization had applied for a grant from VDOT for a pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River to connect the Woolen Mills neighborhood in the city to the Pantops neighborhood in the county, which would have made it a longer crossing than if the planning organization tried to connect the two localities at another point along the river.

That decision could have sunk the plan.

“So, the project was already somewhat more expensive,” planning organization Chairman and City Council Member Brian Pinkston told The Daily Progress on Thursday. “And then by the time the engineers got through trying to put plenty of contingency money to cover any possible cost escalation or uncertainty … the estimate was really pretty high.”

Still, the bridge has other opportunities to get funded. The planning organizations intends to apply for a grant from the Federal Highway Administration that helps fund projects that improve safety and equity. That funding comes the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, discretionary grant program.

“There’ll be a study to better refine the project scope,” Proctor said. That could help mitigate risk and bring down the bridge’s cost.

“There’s a saying in construction: ‘It’s either dollar signs or question marks,’” Pinkston said. “If you can reduce the question marks, you get fewer dollar signs.”

Funding for the pedestrian bridge is still a ways off, however. Pinkston said it’ll likely be a year before they get through the application cycle for a RAISE grant. It will be two years before the group can apply for a Smart Scale grant.


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